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The Bar Association of San Francisco Celebrates 25 Years of Working to Diversify the Legal Profession

2015 Goals and Timetables Report released


December 14, 2015 San Francisco, CA –The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) began studying the hiring and advancement of attorneys of color in the Bay Area legal community in 1989. Every five years since then, a report has been produced on the progress being made to diversify the profession.  Marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first report in 1990, the 2015 Goals and Timetables for Minority Hiring, Advancement and Retention is being released Monday, December 14.

In this sixth study and report, BASF, through its Equality Committee, expanded the exploration to include segments of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender attorney population and to include ethnic subgroups of the Asian and Latino attorneys to study the experiences of diverse attorneys with a focus on:

  • Ethnic Subgroups (subgroups of Asian and Latino attorneys)
  • Intersectionality (having more than one diverse characteristic)
  • Retention of Diverse Attorneys

The Equality Committee was headed by co-chairs Paul Henderson, Office of the Mayor of San Francisco Miriam Montesinos, Gresham Savage Nolan & Tilden; Vidhya Prabhakaran, Davis Wright Tremaine; and Quyen Ta, Keker & Van Nest.  Key themes emerged from in-person interviews of diverse attorneys and from two online surveys, one of law firms, nonprofits and government agencies, and the other of another group of diverse attorneys.  These highlights include:

  • Diversity: Diverse attorneys are often the subject of explicit racism and implicit bias in the workplace.
  • Mentorships and Sponsorship: Good mentors were credited with diverse attorneys’ success and the presence of a “champion” or sponsor is a key to progression through the ranks.
  • Professional Development: Diverse attorneys experience impediments that are not experienced by non-diverse attorney.  However, diverse attorneys recognize that being diverse has some benefits.
  • Business Development: Diversity and identity is a benefit when it comes to business development because diverse attorneys provide access to a greater client pool.  Minority bar associations also were cited as important sources for networking and business development.

According to Yolanda Jackson, BASF’s Executive Director, “The goal with the 2015 Goals and Timetables Report was to dig a little deeper into the very complex challenge of increasing diversity in the legal profession; to provide realistic recommendations for law firm decision makers and diverse attorneys; and to encourage law firm leaders and attorneys to become comfortable with the notion that all human beings have biases and the key is for each of us to recognize our own biases and to learn to hit the ‘reset’ button so that our biases don’t lead to bad assumptions and unfair decisions.”

The 2015 Goals and Timetables for Minority Hiring, Advancement and Retention can be found online